OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

human first

Four reflections that have worked for me

Photo of Julia Thompson
3 3

Written by

I am a.....

  • Teacher

Tell us about your idea

As an educator, granted on the university level, I refocused my course when we all went online.  

1. Human- first value. For each class, I checked in.  Prioritizing the human connection.

2. Found projects that were appropriate for online environment.  It was a project-based learning course, and some of the projects did not fit in terms of online environment, so we dropped them. WE dropped projects that needed hands-on and kept research, brochure, and computer programming

3. Introduce and taught online project management.  Introduced students to SCRUM/agile approach, as well as tools like slack and trello.  Students can learn about what professionals are doing.  For k12, this is thinking about the professional and learning skills that can be taught and incorporated in online environments.  

4. Group work. My students all said it was hard for them to do work alone, so all work became group work.  The classes were mostly break out sessions for the students to work on larger projects.  I would check in, at the beginning, and then followed up in an hour.  There was weekly updates.  In k-12, this would make sense in later grades, but may also be good in educational games.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

back-to back schedule

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am a Engineering professor at the university of San Francisco 

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

San Francisco, a few blocks from University of San Francisco


Join the conversation:

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Thank you for those wonderful reflections, Julia Thompson ! I appreciate the student-centered approach that you took to transition into remote teaching.

Apart from the hands-on approach that some of your projects needed, what were some other aspects of projects that made them ill-suited for remote learning? Looking ahead, what might be some ways in which engineering professors could maintain the learning benefits of hands-on project work, but adapt it to meet the needs of remote learning?

Photo of Julia Thompson

Naman Mandhan thank you for the reply! The projects I often work with students include community engagement, industry partners, and hands on skills. In terms of community interactions and industry partners, everything is up in the air at this point. Integrating partners right now is a case-by-case basis. Hands-on comes in various forms - makerspace equipment (3d printers, laser, cnc, soldering, etc.), lab work... so much is required in engineering that relies on building and prototyping that is all difficult to do in this environment... but not impossible

The course I just completes was on engineering design and testing. Two of the projects that had to be dropped were testing material properties. We were going to test the elasticity of tennis strings for a tennis team and the strength of different cement ratios for concrete. The students were in the process of getting the specimens ready and establishing lab protocols when the pandemic hit. They were seniors, and leading their project. We had a class discussion about how we should move forward to ensure they met the learning outcomes - I had an idea in mind but wanted them to be a part of their education at this point. As a class, we decided to have me find data and have them analyze it. There was another faculty member who had data that could be analyzed, and I created 3 assignments for them to analyze different data sets, so they could still get the experience of analyzing materials. Next year, if we are still online, I actually would only do one- and in more detail. I believe iteration is key. There were certain concepts, such as how to present data in a coherent way to various audiences, that would help the students to hone in their understanding of materials properties that I don't think we got to in detail.

This summer I am planning out projects for a freshman engineering physics course. We want this to be hands on, even if they are far away. We will mail kits with things they need to build, and use items around their home. For example, we are going to have them build a rube Goldberg machine and then do force diagrams and analyze different parts to see if they can predict time/speed based on physics principals. We will have students create a video of their devise as a way to show it online.

There are a lot of things to consider, like access to resources and internet. Many students are coming from different back grounds and so it is hard to find ways to make sure all needs are being met.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Thank you for your response, Julia Thompson ! I would love for you to update your submission with the additional information that you have included with your comment. This is to make sure that all of your thoughts are captured in the submission before the submission deadline on May 26.